Have you ever seen more zucchini than the piles at farmers markets this summer? Not only was summer's signature squash early this year; it also seems to be growing faster than ever, especially during heat waves. It doubles or triples in size in a few hours, or so it seems.
At the Sebastopol market on Sunday, one farmer was offering it for $1 a pound.
There's great variety, too: pale green, dark green, speckled green, deep yellow and the medium-green ridged Romanesco, which holds up so well during cooking. There are round zucchini as small as pingpong balls and others nearly the size of footballs.
If you wait to unload extras from your garden until Aug. 8, "Sneak Some Zucchini Onto Your Neighbor's Porch Night," you may never get rid of it.
It's tempting to walk outside and invite the gophers: Please, have some zucchini and I won't trap you until fall. If only, eh?
All kidding aside, what we need are really good zucchini recipes and I'm here to help. I've posted links to favorite zucchini recipes from this column's archives at Eat This Now, which you'll find at pantry.pressdemocrat.com. You'll find classic Algerian zucchini, chilled zucchini soup, zucchini pizza, zucchini sandwiches, zucchini frittata and more.
I have advice, too. If you don't have the type of mechanical slicer known as a mandoline, I recommend getting one. You'll find mandolines at most cookware stores and also at Asian markets, such as Asia Mart (2481 Guerneville Road, Santa Rosa).
I prefer a mandoline designed for a home kitchen and not for a restaurant, as they are inexpensive, small, easy to operate and store and get the job done perfectly well. A restaurant mandoline is a big, sturdy, pricey workhorse and unless you'll use it all the time, it's overkill for a home cook.
When you purchase a mandoline, be sure it has a julienne blade, which cuts ribbons about the size of spaghetti. A quarter-inch-wide blade, which cuts fettuccine-like ribbons, is good, too. Armed with this and a good box grater, you can transform any size zucchini into something irresistibly delicious.
Tools matter this much? you may ask.
Yes, they do.
I've long realized that texture — how something physically impacts our palates — is nearly as important as the flavors a food imparts. There are precise physiological reasons for this, but you don't need to explore the science to experience it.
You can experiment yourself, if you're the curious sort. To do so, cut a small zucchini into even julienne, preferably with a mandoline. Cut another small zucchini into medium-sized uneven chunks, slice a third small zucchini into quarter-inch rounds and grate a fourth on the large blade of a box grater. Now, take bites of each, one at a time, and refresh your palate with water or another light beverage between bites. As you do so, simply pay attention to how each tastes and feels. It isn't necessary to rate your preference; just explore the physical experience.
There's nothing wrong with any of these shapes. Rather, each is best for certain preparations and not recommended for others. To show zucchini to its best advantage, it is helpful to understand this. For example, I don't care much for chunks or spears of zucchini on pizza. I find them cumbersome and somehow intrusive. However, a pizza of olive oil, minced garlic, grated zucchini and grated cheese is one of my favorite ways to enjoy the summer's bounty of squash.